2022 Pre-Departure Orientation
From August 1st to August 3rd, the KAUST Gifted Student Program held the 2022 Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO) at the KAUST campus to welcome its 14th cohort of new students to the Program. This exciting moment marked the KGSP’s first in-person PDO held since the COVID-19 pandemic began. At KAUST, the 115 new students had the opportunity to connect with each other and meet members of the KGSP Team, 19 KAUST faculty members, 25 KGSP alumni and over 50 current KGSP students. Throughout the three event days, Cohort 14 learned the essentials on how to succeed in the Program while they pursue their academic and professional development in the United States. This year’s PDO theme, “Charting the Course: Expanding Horizons,” reflects the opportunity that this new cohort has to develop a plan for success in their first year in the KGSP, while also laying the groundwork for positive self-growth, educational achievement, and future success.
The KGSP Team developed many informative sessions and workshops for the new students that culminated their final onboarding experience before they travelled to the US. Sessions introduced them to the KGSP, highlighting the responsibilities and policies of this competitive scholarship. They also highlighted the in-depth support that students receive and the extensive resources available to them from the KGSP’s dedicated advising, enrichment, and placement teams.
In addition, the PDO included tours of KAUST’s impressive research labs, immersing the students in the state-of-art facilities and allowing them to meet the many experienced faculty in their research spaces. Cohort 14 had the chance to converse with KAUST professors during the Faculty lunch where they could begin to network, gain insight on their fields of study, and receive advice on how to succeed in their studies. The faculty also participated in the Faculty Research Fair where they presented the research they are currently conducting. Cohort 14 have an invaluable resource in the KAUST professors who can help guide and mentor their academic interests and studies while they complete the Program.
As new members of this vibrant student community, Cohort 14 students participated in fun and interactive team building activities, like building free standing paper towers and recreating photos using post-it notes. The activities were organized to foster a network of peer support amongst the students, but also for them to realize the importance of laying the groundwork for their future goals by utilizing the resources available to them. Many of the sessions were supported by nine Peer Student Guides (PSGs), current KGSP students that were chosen to serve as representatives for the Program. In their roles, the PSGs shared their experiences and perspectives of their KGSP journey. Having been in the same position as their new peers, PSGs offer keen advice on how to flourish as Foundation Year and undergraduate students. They are also a testament of the many enriching and developmental opportunities that KGSP students can participate in. For the Foundation Year students, a College Fair was organized to introduce them to the universities they can apply to, the application process, and highlight how the KGSP will support and assist them in applying to competitive universities in the US.
Current KGSP students participating in research projects at KAUST during the summer also presented during the KAUST Summer Internship Program (KSIP) Fair. This unique experience for undergraduates to participate in graduate level research at KAUST is great example of the enrichment opportunities that KGSP students can partake in. From the PDO, Cohort 14 students can begin to create connections to be involved in the groundbreaking research at KAUST.
KGSP Alumni attended the event and were featured in the Reflections from Alumni session. Some also presented on research projects they are currently conducting at KAUST during the Faculty Research Fair segment of the PDO. KGSP Alumni represent the success of the Program. At the Reflections from Alumni session, alumni were able to tell their unique stories of their time in the KGSP and reveal the exciting careers and projects that they are currently undertaking.
Hashim Motabagani, a Foundation Year student majoring in Computer Science at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said, “The PDO was an enriching experience. Being able to socialize more with KGSP students with different perspectives expanded my perception on many different academic and non-academic subjects. Meeting KAUST faculty also helped me explore my major and research opportunities that I would love to pursue during my undergraduate and graduate studies.”
Joud Shogair, a freshman at Johns Hopkins University majoring in Materials Science and Engineering, attended the PDO at KAUST with her Cohort 14 peers. She felt fully prepared and excited to begin her first semester studying Materials Science and Engineering in the US, fulfilling her academic curiosity, and meeting people with her shared interests and ambitions. “The most important takeaway I had from PDO is how empowering it was to see many of my Kingdom’s ambitious youth motivated to look for higher education and opportunities abroad,” Joud proclaimed. “It was also truly a moment when I felt the support and encouragement of our Kingdom and KAUST in investing in us, the youth, to have an opportunity of seeking deeper knowledge and enriching experiences.”
The PDO is a major step for Cohort 14 in their KGSP and academic career. The skills and knowledge they have obtained during the event will be a springboard for their future growth and development. As members of the KGSP, they will benefit from working with KAUST faculty, dedicated KGSP Advisors, and a supportive KGSP student community that will make their learning in the experience in the US enriching and rewarding. Cohort 14 are the prospective pioneers that can make positive contributions to academia, KAUST, and the advancement of Saudi Arabia.